Interior Built Environment
What once was the old Hospitality High School located on the north west now sits alone, abandoned, locked. With only a paper sign affixed to its surface, serving as a small indicator of what is to come and what was for this historic building. “Planning meeting 1/16/2017”. My assignment- “to document this building’s interior” had been halted, unless I was willing to break multiple civil and federal laws, which a price which carried too much risk.
Undeterred by my set back and motivated to pass the class, let alone the paper, I moved forward, weaving in and out of any place I could physically enter. A hard task, to accomplish only as a result by the sheer timing of my birth, had placed me below the necessary agegate requirement that a group of politicians and concerned parents decided long before I was born. Regardless that I was well underaged I sought out any place which I could sit myself down and take look at the interior.
An hour passes by and I find myself further and further from my desired starting point. By this time it has started to become darker, and after being turned away from so many bars, clubs and restaurants, due to a lack of space, food priced well above my budget, my age or a combination thereof. I had found myself at the Florida Avenue grill.
Located a quick 9 minutes away from my starting location. It’s exterior is unassuming, standard to any roadside diner seen across the country. Dirty chrome plates the outside, while folded up lawn tables chained to the wall guard the entrance. Two heavy set wooden doors are the only observable entrances. Worn from decades of daily use and a sign which claims “The Oldest Soul Food Restaurant in the World” only to be backed up with various slogans such as “Since 1944” and “Zagat’s rated”; these stickers serve as a stark contrast which the exterior claimed to proport laid inside.
Classic to any building in Shaw, entering this grill is like stepping into a time capsule. How far back being determind only by how long ago the interior was updated, or cleaned. For this grill, the menus and interior advertising point to the 1970s.
Upon entering one is seduced by the scent of Southern Cooking and the sizzling of a griddle lubricated with the grease of recooked animal fats. The air laid heavy, heat from the open kitchen permeated the whole restaurant. No one cared or seems to care. Framed signed photos of celebrities circled the interior perimeter of the restaurant. Excluding a few, their identities were all but unknown to me. Actors, Anchormen, Musicians and Community Leaders stretching back to a time before Kodachrome, there in photo props serving as the only identifiers to who these people might be.
Sitting down, my eyes scanned across the restaurant. At this time the small restaurant was empty, it was between shifts. Regardless the restaurant was not devoid of people. The following are those which remained:
An Older man at least 60 years senior with gray facial sported an old Washington Red Skins baseball cap, gray slacks and a green zipped up sweater and beaten up peacoat sat engrossed in a copy of the Washington Times sports section, occasionally picking at an indeterminate dinner platter. A twenty something man with a Hitler-youth haircut, button up shirt and suspenders sit across an equally aged woman in reclaimed and repurposed thrift shop dress well out of fashion. Their table is empty except for her companion’s MacBook and two glasses of water. They are silent expect for the occasional “what about this one” and “no I don’t like the location”. It is clear they are not locals-yet. A car honks in the distance. Black-blue Jeaned green flannel wearing 30 something year consumes a plate of fried catfish while listening to music through over priced headphones. A Sunday dress wearing woman waits impatiently to be noticed. A group of seven college aged kids in matching black shirts surround the cash register, loudly joking and talking among themselves. Their jovial tone permeates the quiet interior with talk of after shift activities and coming up parties. Their companionship and camaraderie is something to envy.